Newbie blown away by Portraits, but dissapointed with landscapes

Discussion in 'Sony' started by theVenerable, Dec 4, 2014.

  1. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India
    Hi all

    I'm new here and I'm glad I found this interesting forum.

    I have an RX100 of course, and I was stunned at the quality of the portraits in portrait mode.

    The landscape shots I have been taking have not been anywhere near the same high quality.

    I've tried landscape mode, intelligent auto, p mode, hdr on, off, ect
    I'm just rather dissapointed with the outdoor pictures I've got so far.

    I am in India and its pretty bright and sunny often.

    Can anyone advise me on this problem of how to get nice outdoor pictures of trees, fields, etc?

  2. Richard

    Richard Top Veteran

    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    Could you be more specific - what is wrong with the landscape shots you have taken? Not in focus, detail disappointing, blown highlights?

    An example or two would be helpful, if you could post them here.

    (and welcome to the site)

  3. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India

    I can't explain whats wrong with them.. but they are about 100 times less good than the portraits

    and this one.. it was a great view with my eyes, but the camera made it about smartphone camera quality
    It was on intelligent auto plus i think.

    The blue sky has gone, the subtle light and shadows on the tree has gone.. it just looks awful, compared to the amazing portraits, its like a totally different camera, please help !

    p.s, and strangely enough, when there is a natural landscape background behind my subjects, and the picture is taken in portrait mode, then the landscape background looks in some way nicer than if i just take a picture in landscape mode.
    That backgound looks nice.

    and, now the 'unpleasant' landscape:

    The softness has gone, the clarity has gone.. its about a cheap smartphone camera level compared to a top level camera when It does portraits !?!?

    Thanks very much
  4. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Welcome, Russell.

    It's really hard to judge anything from such small images. They appear to be suffering from compression artefacts but I really can't tell much at all. Can you post larger, please?
  5. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India
    Hi Bill :)

    I edited the pictures with corel paintshop pro x7
    It saves them in a surprisingly small file size, but they seem to retain quality!
    The portraits are 'compressed' also, but still look great.

    I don't have any 'full size pictures at the moment, but will take some fresh ones tomorrow.

    Regardless, if I may say, even with the 'smaller size' pictures I posted above, it's quite easy to see a gap in quality between landscape and portrait.?

    Many thanks :)


    In fact, this test shot is 9mb:
    It was obviously unedited.
    I can't post larger unless I shoot in raw!
    I think you'll agree that picture looks dreadful, especially when compared to the COMPRESSED portraits !??

    Please advise !?

    Thanks :)
  6. Richard

    Richard Top Veteran

    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    Ok, I'm far from expert on these things, but I've opened up the images in Photoshop and here's a couple of observations:

    In the first landscape (under the trees) the sky colour has turned white because it's a blown highlight. I had a look at the levels with Photoshop and reducing the highlight level doesn't reveal any colour or detail - it's all just blown out. I get blown highlights with my RX100 and my solution is to routinely reduce exposure by 0.7 stops. You can generally recover details from shadows later in post, but once the highlights have gone, they've gone. The other approach is to record images in RAW mode and take advantage of the increased dynamic range you get that way. You'll need image editing software which can accept RAW format images for that.

    I don't think there's much else technically wrong with that image that can't be improved in post.

    The goats and walking children image looked OK at first glance, but then when I looked more closely I can see that it's very soft. Is that because it's been compressed down to 1.5MB somewhere? (should normally be about 7MB as a JPG straight from the camera).

  7. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India
    Thanks for the input :)

    Should I get blown highlights on intelligent auto mode ?
    That's what seems to happen I think.. the lights are too 'blown out' and the shadows are too dark.
    I tried to rectify this with 'HDR' setting, which helped a bit, but then it creates a blr if there is anything moving in the picture, plus I am not confident using manual settings as my eye is not very used to what is 'a good picture' and what is a mess, and I cant use HDR if I'm in atuo mode. I'm not sure its the answer anyway.

    As for the compression, I will try to look at my photo editing softwares settings and try to stop it compressing so much.

    I'm still a bit shocked that portraits look so stunning, even compressed, but landscapes don't impress me anywhere near as much.. almost to the point of considering selling the camera.
    The landscapes are pretty much no improvement over any other half decent small camera I've used.

    Is it common knowledge that in the scene selection mode, the RX100 does great portraits but the landscapes are not up to the same quality?
    It seems that way to me.
    And I'm having difficulties getting to grips with manual control... my choices can make the picture even worse than before !
  8. Richard

    Richard Top Veteran

    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    I haven't experimented with HDR modes at all. I use Intelligent Auto mode quite a lot, but never Superior Auto because I don't properly understand it and I'm wary of HDR. I should probably use Superior Auto more for shots in low light and at night, but that's getting beyond today's discussion.

    If you switch to P mode for Program that will allow you to apply a bit of exposure compensation to preserve highlights. I have the front ring set up to control exposure compensation, and that works well for me. You will get darker shadows that way, but as I mentioned earlier you can generally recover shadows quite nicely with editing software. With the RX100 there's always detail to be recovered from the shadows, but highlights can be lost quite readily.

    I'm not aware that the RX100 does a better job with portraits than it does with landscapes.

    Here's a typical photo of mine for illustration. Don't think I did very much with it in post, and there are some highlights and shadows to look at.

    (actually, there are plenty of other RX100 images posted on this site for you to compare)


    14645832326_8065602302_b.jpg at Marlow Bridge by clearbluesky44, on Flickr
  9. >> The softness has gone, the clarity has gone.. its about a cheap smartphone camera level compared to a top level camera when It does portraits !?!? <<

    My guess is you are impressed with somewhat shallow depth-of-field (much more than you ever saw with a cameraphone), which at the same time gives impression that the portraits are sharper and more 3D.

    Your landscapes are taken at wide angle and at a considerable distance, so not even a hint of shallow DOF. Regardless of compression, or taking at the best exposure, you are basically right - that kind of shots will look similar to phone shots, taken at these outdoor and bright conditions.

    The stunning landscape pictures you might have been looking at depend much more on the time of day they were shot at, the quality of light to be more precise, also on careful composition and skillful processing. The photos you posted look like snapshots because that's basically what they are.

    Seems to me you developed a desire for better photos, which is great, but now you have to raise yourself to that task, learn about photography basics and leave scene modes. It's sometimes frustrating in the beginning, but is also much fun, and brings real fulfillment once you are able to capture exactly what you want.

    I have the same camera, and I would dare say there's nothing wrong with it:





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  10. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    I agree with all of what pictogramax says. And harsh mid-day light in India is a challenge for any camera. In the landscape shots, there is (generally) a much wider dynamic range (the difference between the brightest and darkest points) than in portraits. I agree that underexposing your shots by a bit in harsh lighting conditions is advisable. Stick with it and keep posting images and asking questions. It's the best way to get better. Your camera is capable of great things, but it is merely a tool. YOU need to use it to create those images. Learning to use processing software to help shape the image to the way you saw it will go a long ways towards addressing what you perceive as the camera's shortcomings.

    btw, I LOVE that shot of the 3 children. The expression of that one in the middle is PRICELESS.
  11. theoldsmithy

    theoldsmithy All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 7, 2013
    Herefordshire, England
    Martin Connolly
    Welcome to the Lounge! You've come to the right place for advice. FWIW I have never seen any difference in quality between portrait and landscape photos taken with the RX100. However I strongly believe that shooting RAW gets the best out of the camera - you can recover a lot more detail and range that way. Stick clear of any effects unless you really want them. And I agree with pictogramax. Superior Auto is only really suitable for low-light shots. Most of the time Intelligent Auto will produce a good photo; Program mode lets you get a bit more creative and offers more control over metering and focus point. Certainly don't ditch the camera. Here are a random couple of landscape oriented images - both taken with intelligent auto. There are loads of superb images elsewhere on the forum and on photo sharing sites.

    Near Guincho by theoldsmithy, on Flickr

    DSC00016 by theoldsmithy, on Flickr
  12. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Just skimming over this, what I picked up was that you should begin to investigate "Dynamic Range." It's been mentioned here, but it sounds like the single biggest contributing factor to your unhappiness. Once you understand what dynamic range really is, and what happens when the scene you're photographing has too wide a dynamic range (bright mid-day Indian sun!), then you'll begin to unlock your problem.

    I struggled with wide dynamic range issues when I moved from the fuji X100 to the fuji XT1 (which has a different type of sensor, and which behaves differently). It took me a few months of reading and experimenting, but I now actually prefer the output of the new sensor over the older X100 sensor, which I never thought I'd say. Like Luke said, they're just tools. Pictogramax demonstrates nicely that you can get incredible results with this particular tool, but in your preferred shooting conditions (noon sun landscapes), you won't get superior results on any kind of Auto mode shooting straight to jpg's.
  13. bluzcity

    bluzcity Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jul 24, 2013
    Memphis, TN
    Welcome. I really don't believe you have an equipment problem. The worse possible thing you could do is think another camera would be the solution and get into buying and selling. I would suggest you read Understanding Exposure by Brian Peterson.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India
    Thanks everyone for the in depth views, tips and suggestions.

    Its at least nice to know my camera isn't faulty.
    Maybe there is new firmware for it though?

    I can see some incredible pictures here.
    Even the ones taken in intelligent auto are stunning to say the least.

    So, I can't under expose unless I come out of auto mode.
    I go into 'P' mode, then underexpose by lowering the ISO? or the f/stop? I have no idea.
    Plus if I'm in 'P' mode, there may be a ton of other settings that wont be right and I wouldn't know how to manually configure.

    I've been reading Gary Friedman's RX100 guide, and It has a lot of useful ideas, but I'm unable to implement them well due to lack of knowledge as to when to implement them, and also when in manual mode, too many other factors need to be changed that I don't even understand.
    Its seems for example, you can't control the 'aperture' and 'shutter speed' separately unless you are in total manual mode.
    Any way.. all these issues are probably too advanced than I need to go.

    I can't imagine my camera taking pictures of the quality you posted, especially in auto. It seems to over and under expose - perhaps that's the hard Indian sun as mentioned.. I dont know... I did take a few in the UK and thought it also had similar issues in sunny situations.
    The only way around that is to lower the exposure (how to do that without messing up any other auto settings please?) or using HDR.

    I guess I will be shooting in RAW from now on.
    Either with low exposure, or HDR.
    The problem with HDR , as I said, is that it takes 3 pictures, and if there is anything moving in those pictures, it causes a blur, or two heads etc.
    So that mode is only useful for static scenery.

    I'm glad you like the portraits I posted!
    The people here are so photogenic I think.

    Thanks all :)
  15. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Have a look here to see what the EV, Saturation, and Contrast settings in the RX100 will do to your jpgs.

    And the best way to brighten or darken your shots manually is with the EV Comp (Exposure Value Compensation). Most cameras have this somewhere - a tiny button, or buried in the menus, or as a prominent dial up on top (as with many of the larger mirrorless cameras). Here's how to do it with the RX100. In short, EV Comp is you telling the camera "I'd like you to brighten (or darken) this image by (X) number of stops, following whatever logic you normally use to set exposure. Do it for me, please." So if you tell the camera to lower exposure by 1/3 of a stop, it will either close the aperture by 1/3 of a stop, or speed up the shutter by 1/3 of a stop, or lower the ISO by 1/3 of a stop. It gets to decide HOW to do it, you just care that it does it, and does it in the direction (and to the amount) that you selected.

    I use it constantly. As I look through the viewfinder on the fuji XT1, I decide if the scene would look better brighter or darker, and my right fingers reach for the large EV comp wheel at the top right corner and click it accordingly. The view in the viewfinder lightens or darkens as I do so, and when I like it, I stop and fire.
  16. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    I should also say that I usually recommend people start with EV Comp as the first thing they begin to take control of in a camera. After a while, you begin to know what to do before you even pick the camera up. When you're about to shoot a picture of someone standing indoors with a big bright window behind them, you know you need to up the exposure value, and probably by at least a stop, if not additionally use a fill flash. Otherwise, the window will look fantastic and their face will be 90% shadows. And when out in bright sun, it's quite common to lower the EV by a third to keep the brightest, harshest parts of your picture from being blown out to pure white. It depends on which parts of the picture Really Matter. In the case of the person in front of the bright window, it's their face, not the stupid window. But the camera, being a dumb device, never knows what part matters, so it does its best to expose the entire frame evenly.

    EV is the place to start.
  17. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India
    Thanks very much.
    The problem here is that I can't select it in auto mode.
    I have to be at least in 'P' mode, and I don't know how to configure the other settings while in that mode, therefore the picture will be potentially worse (although I think I can set most things to auto even in 'P' mode, but I'm unsure if I will miss something important).

    I guess it simply 'cannot' be done in auto mode... yet.... it can! the pictures above prove that even in standard intelligent auto, amazing results are achieved.

    Beats me!
  18. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    The underlying problem here is probably that you admire the look of photographs that can only be replicated with experience and manual control, and you don't have those things yet. You can, and likely will, but you need to work towards it. There are a lot of great people here willing to help. First step: Get out of full auto. Take the plunge.
    • Like Like x 2
  19. theVenerable

    theVenerable Rookie

    Dec 4, 2014
    Currently in India
    Ok :), I may have to.

    Can anyone confirm any major issues I will face in 'P' mode?
    Or if I set everything I see in the menus to 'auto' and just change the 'EV' I won't be overlooking anything?

    Thanks again
  20. porchard

    porchard Veteran

    Feb 3, 2013
    Devon, UK
    I completely agree with KillRamsey's comment "Get out of full Auto", and, indeed, all the other advice posted here, including to shoot Raw. The RX100 will reward you handsomely when you've taken charge of it. As stated by others, changing cameras isn't going to solve the problem - that's just a way to lose money, and become disillusioned when things don't improve. However, learning to use the camera that you already have, WILL solve the problem... eventually. Study each photo; note what worked and what didn't; analyse the settings used for each, and the lighting conditions at the time. Then draw conclusions from that process. It's as simple - and as complicated - as that.:smile:

    There are plenty of knowledgeable people on here who (as already demonstrated, above) will help if you have questions along the way.
    Good luck, and show us the results of your progress...!